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S. Korea approves first group of people to serve alternative military duty


South Korea on Wednesday approved the first group of people to substitute mandatory military service for other public services due to their religious or personal beliefs, the military manpower agency said.

Last month, the country began accepting applications from conscientious objectors to do 36 months of alternative service at local correctional facilities, instead of joining the military, following the launch of a 29-member committee to review the applications.

After holding its first session, the committee approved the applications of 35 people to serve the alternative service. They will be drafted in October, according to the Military Manpower Administration.

The 35 applied for the alternative service after receiving acquittal from the Supreme Court over allegations of rejecting the mandatory military service due to their personal beliefs.

By law, all able-bodied South Korean men must carry out military service for about two years in a country that faces North Korea across one of the world's most heavily fortified borders. Violators are punished with prison terms.

During the meeting, the committee also decided on matters of consideration when reviewing the applications.

"Today is the day we take the first step in the alternative military service system. We will do our best so this new system can quickly take root based on this first step," the committee said in a release. (Yonhap)